Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Broiled Zucchini Strips

I've been a lover of zucchini for a very long time.  I was one of those weird kids who actually loved zucchini (especially when it was roasted in a tomato-y sauce and the zucchini's skin squeaked on my teeth. Odd, I know.) Zucchini is one of those veggies (along with broccoli, potatoes and asparagus) that I could eat on a daily basis - yes, I do so luuurve it. I love that, while zucchini has a very mild taste, you can jazz it up with various marinades and cooking techniques to bring out its flavour.  Not to mention the fact that you can grate it and bake it in a bread or cake.  Yup, it's a really versatile veg.

Yesterday I was trying to eat right.  I've had my FitBit One on me again to track the number of steps I take, number of flights of stairs I walk up, how I sleep, how much water I drink etc etc.  I can also manually track what I eat.  Knowing how many calories are in each food I eat is ... eye opening.  Not that I'd want to track everything I eat on a daily basis but I was interested in seeing when I was eating and just to be accountable for what I ate.

See, I love to eat in the evenings or whenever my hands are free, when I'm bored, when I'm reading ....  You get the point.  I've always loved to eat and I grew up with a ridiculously high metabolism.  I could easily eat more than my dad by my early teens and still maintain a very slim figure.  

And then my metabolism halted to a screeching stop in my 30's.  I got whiplash it was so abrupt and that's when I started to gain a bit of weight.  And I was fine with the weight gain (honestly with three young kids I was too tired to care) but now I'm trying to get back on track and exercise more, eat better and try to lose the Grinch Belly that my kids gave me.  Tis the gift that truly keeps on giving.  While I'm watching what I eat I'm not cutting out dairy or gluten or anything like that.  I'm just eating better and trying to not eat when I'm bored or watching TV.

Anyhoo, yesterday I noticed that I had a small zucchini in the fridge.  Not wanting to make a huge meal I decided to slice the zucchini and broil it.  Simple yet delish.  And it was!  Along with some other healthy choices my lunch was more than satisfying.  This was a super easy side dish and I could see adding other veggies into the mix and other seasonings to jazz it up a bit.  Sometimes, though, the simpler dishes are the best.  

Here's hoping that I will surpass 10,000 steps, climb more than 10 flights of stairs and drink 8 glasses of water today!  I realize that all these plans will go by the wayside by next week with all the Christmas goodies but I'm going to give it the ol' college try until then.

2 medium zucchinis, sliced length-wise, 1/4" thickness
salt and pepper (or other seasonings - cajun, seasoning salt ....)
grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice)

Set your oven rack to approximately 6" from the top of your oven.  Preheat your broiler on high.

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease.  Lay zucchini strips onto the prepared pan and lightly brush with oil on both sides.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 

Place pan in the oven.  Watch carefully!  Broiling can go from great to burnt offerings if you step away at the wrong time.  After a few minutes (4 minutes for me) the zucchini should be getting nicely browned.  Remove pan from oven and flip the zucchini strips.  Liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Return pan to the oven and broil for another few minutes, while you continue to watch it carefully.  When your zucchini strips are nicely browned they're done!

Serve immediately.

Source: The Baking Bookworm

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Husband's Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty
Genre: Women's Fiction, Modern Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Source: Local Public Library
Pages: 394
Publisher:  Putnam Adult
First Published: July 2013
First Line: "It was all because of the Berlin Wall."

Book Description from GoodReads:  At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died...

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves

My Review:  After reading the book jacket, and hearing such praise about it from other readers, I was excited to pick it up.  I really enjoyed her recent Big Little Lies so I was fairly certain that I'd feel just as entertained by this earlier book.

Unfortunately my reaction to Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret are like night and day.  The description on the book jacket made it seem like there would be a huge secret revealed (and there was) but it wasn't nearly as interesting as I was hoping.  I kept on reading in the hopes that there would be some huge twist but sadly after the 'big reveal' there were no more twists to be had.

I also really struggled with the main characters.  First of all, there were a lot of women to keep track of and I didn't feel much of a connection to any of them.  While the big the secret was decent, how it was handled afterward was quite lackluster and its build-up took much too long to happen.  Add in the silly epilogue and this book was a let down.

If you're in the mood for a soap opera-esque read with cookie cutter characters then I'd suggest you pick up this book.  Unfortunately, I don't think it showcases the author's talent of writing with the charm, humour and wit of her latest work. 

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Survey: Picking the Cover Art and Title for a New Book!

Some of my blog readers may remember that almost exactly a year ago I was utterly ga-ga over the book "Hush Little Baby", the debut novel from new author Suzanne Redfearn.   I found it to be emotional, with an edge of your seat story line and well developed characters who I could root for.  Her writing style reminds me of authors such as Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.  It was so amazing that I even suggested that the library where I work order a few copies ... and they did.  Yup, it was that good!

When I was contacted recently to see if my readers would help vote for the cover photo and title for Suzanne's next fictional novel I thought that this would be a perfect fit for all y'all.  I figure that there's probably many of you who, like me, are initially attracted to books based on their cover art and title.  And honestly, who among us wouldn't want a say into the image and title for a new book?  No one, right?  

Here's a short synopsis of the upcoming book:

Four year old Molly Martin is suddenly thrust into stardom after a YouTube video of her doing an impromptu jig with a street musician goes viral.  Hollywood falls in love with Molly and initially her family thinks that they have hit the jackpot.  Molly is suddenly famous and her opportunities seem endless.  But they quickly see their lives begin unravel as the negative aspects of Hollywood begin to make cracks in their family. Will Mary's family be able to survive the tumultuous world of Hollywood?

Sounds great, right?  Plus, just for participating, you will be entered into a draw for a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble!  And I've been assured that both my American and Canadian readers can participate!  There are four options to vote for and I know which cover I'd like to see on the front.  

Now you can ...

So, if you have a few minutes you can Click here to add your two cents.  The poll ends December 21, 2014.

And if you haven't picked up Hush Little Baby yet, I highly recommend it.                

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grave Mercy

Author: Robin Lafevers
Series: #1 in His Fair Assassins series
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
Type: Kindle e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: December 4, 2014
First Lines: "Brittany, 1405 - I bear a deep red stain that runs from myleft shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb."

Book Description from GoodReads:  Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  If I were to say that this book was a historical fiction read about young assassin nuns your first response would be 'Say wha?'.  Am I right?  The main premise of this book is different and it's a veritable melee of different genres -- historical fiction, supernatural, romance and mystery/suspense -- it kind of works.  

I liked Ismae.  She's resilient, strong and courageous. She's a handmaiden of Death, for goodness sake.  How cool is that?  She's a tough girl who has been handed a really crappy lot in life.  I liked reading about her life in the convent and wished there was more time exploring that time in her life because I found it all quite fascinating.  I actually wish more time was spent on the supernatural element and the connection these women have with Mortain.

I have to be honest that the idea of killer nuns was what made this book stand out for me. wanted to read about Death's handmaidens and all that that entails but for a book about assassins there wasn't a whole lot of bloodshed.  Ismae and her fellow assassins have been training for years in the various arts of killing.  These are strong, capable women but Ismae, in several parts of the book, seems to wander around the castle halls more than she tries to take anyone out with her bare hands and her signature poison.  There's even a point in the book where she has to save someone and the way she saved him was, let's just say, rather 'eye-rollingly' silly. 

The era in which this book takes place is interesting but there was a point in the book (around 40%)  where the description of the political issues became rather heavy and tedious ... and I started to lose interest.  Luckily, the author ramps up the pace for the last part of the book and I got back on board.

To give this book a higher rating there were a few things that I wish would have occurred. First, I was hoping for a few more twists and turns.  There were a couple but they were rather mild and unfortunately the big 'who-dunnit' was rather obvious.  I also felt that I didn't quite believe the romance aspect.  It suddenly advanced where I didn't feel the connection between them nor was I given enough reason as to why they're suddenly enamoured of each other.  

This was a good start to a new series and while there are a few things that I wasn't fond of I think that this premise of intrigue within the court with a healthy dose of the supernatural is a very interesting idea.  I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Dark Triumph, which focuses on Ismae's fellow handmaiden, Sybella.  

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Friday, December 5, 2014

Girl Runner

Author: Carrie Snyder
Genre: Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Hardcover
Source: Local Public Library
Pages: 354
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
First Published: 2014
First Line: "This is not the love song of Aganetha Smart."

Book Description from GoodReads:  Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.

When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario and her struggles to make an independent life for herself in the city.

Without revealing who they are, or what they may want from her, the visitors take Aganetha on an outing from the nursing home. As ready as ever for adventure, Aganetha’s memories are stirred when the pair return her to the family farm where she was raised. The devastation of WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic, the optimism of the 1920s and the sacrifices of the 1930s play out in Aganetha’s mind, as she wrestles with the confusion and displacement of the present.

Part historical page-turner, part contemporary mystery, Girl Runner is an engaging and endearing story about family, ambition, athletics and the dedicated pursuit of one’s passions. It is also, ultimately, about a woman who follows the singular, heart-breaking and inspiring course of her life until the very end.

My Review:  This book is a fictional story about a trailblazing young female Canadian runner in the early 20th century and was inspired by Canada's own 'Matchless Six' (the Canadian female athletes who successfully competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics).  I loved learning more about the history of women in the Olympics and the struggles that these women went through in order to be able to compete on the world stage but I didn't feel that the underlying personal story of Aganetha's life was as interesting.

Aganetha was a unique character and I enjoyed getting a look into 104 year old Aggie's mind set as she struggled to communicate and make sense of what was happening around her.  But I quickly learned that the overall story was less about the female runner and more about her dysfunctional family life, her familial loss and friendships.  And while I loved that the book had a Canadian setting, it felt like the links between the modern day story line and the the story line from the past were often jumbled and didn't transition smoothly.

I liked Aggie but I didn't feel any connection to other characters.  For example,  I wasn't sure how I was supposed to react to Kaley's character.  Was the reader supposed to feel sympathetic to her plight?  I couldn't muster up any sympathy and instead kept seeing her as a sneaky gold digger.  Also, from personal history with my own grandmothers, I couldn't see any nursing home allowing just anyone to wheel out a patient without showing any identification.

What I will take away from this book is a better understanding of how things were for female athletes in the early 20th century as well as the early struggles of women to gain control over their own bodies.  Unfortunately I wasn't as engaged in Aggie's life as I would have hoped and with the addition of the modern day story line I can't say that I loved this book.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Monday, December 1, 2014

Between Gods

Author: Alison Pick
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir, Canadian
Type: Hard Cover
Pages: 400
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
First Published: September 2014
First Lines: "Pain disappears.  These years later -- not even so many of them -- summoning the details is hard: what exactly it was that made me feel so alone, so outside myself and my life, so lifeless I no longer wanted to be alive."

Book Description from GoodReads:  From the Man Booker-nominated author of the novel Far to Goand one of our most talented young writers comes an unflinching, moving and unforgettable memoir about family secrets and the rediscovered past. 

Alison Pick was born in the 1970's and raised in a supportive, loving family. She grew up laughing with her sister and cousins, and doting on her grandparents. Then as a teenager, Alison made a discovery that instantly changed her understanding of her family, and her vision for her own life, forever. She learned that her Pick grandparents, who had escaped from the Czech Republic during WWII, were Jewish--and that most of this side of the family had died in concentration camps. She also discovered that her own father had not known of this history until, in his twenties, he had a chance encounter with an old family friend--and then he, too, had kept the secret from Alison and her sister.

In her early thirties, engaged to be married to her longtime boyfriend but struggling with a crippling depression, Alison slowly but doggedly began to research and uncover her Jewish heritage. Eventually she came to realize that her true path forward was to reclaim her history and identity as a Jew. But even then, one seemingly insurmountable problem remained: her mother wasn't Jewish, so technically Alison wasn't either. In this by times raw, by times sublime memoir, Alison recounts her struggle with the meaning of her faith, her journey to convert to Judaism, her battle with depression, and her path towards facing and accepting the past and embracing the future--including starting a new family of her own. This is her unusual and gripping story, told in crystalline prose and with all the nuance and drama of a novel, but illuminated with heartbreaking insight into the very real lives of the dead, and hard-won hope for the lives of all those who carry on after.

My Review: As soon as I saw this book in a Featured Reads pamphlet at my local library where I work I knew that I wanted to read it.  Canadian memoir, set in the beautiful backdrop of Toronto and dealing with such a deep personal crisis?  I'm in!

I have never read a book by Pick before but I was impressed with her writing and the emotion that she easily conveys to her readers as she struggled with her crisis of faith as well as debilitating depression.  Her struggle to find out who she is and where she came from was touching as she pieces together her faith and what it means to her as she looks back on her life with her parents and grandparents as well as the life she wants to build with her husband.

The struggles with her faith and depression felt authentic, compelling and, at times, quite touching.  I kept having to remind myself that this was a memoir because there was so much happening to the author that it didn't seem possible for her to handle so much all at once.  But I found Pick to be inspiring as she fought to discover this history that she recently knew nothing about.  I also thought it was very interesting to see how she somehow unconsciously felt Jewish all along.  Even though I've never had to deal with such a huge crisis of faith in my life, Pick managed to help me understand her frustration, sense of loss and then the strength she needed in order to stand up for what she ultimately knew was her calling.

Another perk to this book was how much I learned about the Jewish faith.  Pick was able to provide information regarding Judaism and its history without it negatively influencing the flow of the story.  I enjoyed learning about Judaism and I also found it fascinating to see how Alison's father reacted to her embracing their Jewish heritage even though he was raised Christian.

This was a powerful, well written book that showcases familial secrets, faith, dealing with depression and family all woven together quite seamlessly.  Pick's voice was not overly dramatic or saccharine but compelling and touching.


My Rating: 3.5 stars

Friday, November 28, 2014

Family Furnishings: Selected Stories 1995-2004

Author: Alice Munro
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 640
Source: Random House of Canada
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart
First Published: November 11, 2014
First Line: "For the last couple of decades, there has been a museum in Walley, dedicated to preserving photos and butter churns and horse harnesses and an old dentist's chair and a cumbersome apple peeler and such curiosities as the pretty porcelain-and-glass insulators that were used on telegraph poles."

Book Description from GoodReads:  From the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature-perhaps our most beloved author-a new selection of her peerless short fiction, gathered from the collections of the last two decades, a companion volume to "Selected Stories (1968-1994)." 

By all accounts, no Nobel Prize in recent years has garnered the enthusiastic reception that Alice Munro's has, and in its wake, her reputation and readership has skyrocketed worldwide. Now," Family Furnishings" will bring us twenty-five of her most accomplished, most powerfully affecting stories, most of them set in the territory she has so brilliantly made her own: the small towns and flat lands of southwestern Ontario. Subtly honed with the author's hallmark precision, grace, and compassion, these stories illuminate the ordinary but quite extraordinary particularity in the lives of men, women, and children as they discover sex, fall in love, part, quarrel, head out into the unknown, suffer defeat, find a way to be in the world. As the Nobel Prize presentation speech reads in part: "Reading one of Alice Munro's texts is like watching a cat walk across a laid dinner table. A brief short story can often cover decades, summarizing a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder Alice Munro is often able to say more in thirty pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in three hundred. She is a virtuoso of the elliptical and...the master of the contemporary short story."

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to McClelland and Stewart and Random House of Canada for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  I have never read any books in the short story genre.  It just wasn't a genre I was drawn to.  But when I had an opportunity to review Alice Munro's new collection of short stories I was excited for the chance to give it a try.  

Munro is the 2013 Nobel Prize winner and a cherished Canadian author.  She is known for writing about slices of her character's daily lives - their struggles and successes - and providing her readers with snapshots of life in small town Canada. 

Like I said, this was my first time reading short stories but unfortunately I can't say that I'm a fan of the genre.  I think a lot of that has to do with the feeling of being plunked down into someone's life with not a lot of time to understand them to the depth that I wanted to before the story was over.  I guess I just love a good build-up to a story, time to get to know the characters and get my bearings.  For example, in the story "Love of a Good Woman" the story jumped around a lot between the doctor, the three boys and the woman who nurse's the doctor's wife.  It felt a bit jumbled for all this to have happened in such a short story.

There were also some instances where the reader isn't handed a nice clean ending and is left to imagine how the story would end.  After finishing stories like these I felt like I was left hanging.  I wanted Munro to tell me what happened to her characters.  I wanted closure.  

There were definitely some complicated characters in her stories.  No 'cookie cutter cliches' here and some were hard to like or even get behind.  There is no doubt that Alice Munro can write unique characters and capture an authentic feeling of a small Canadian town and the relationships within it.  Unfortunately, I just don't think that the short story genre is for me.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family

Author: Josh Hanagarne
Genre: autobiography
Type: e-audiobook
Source: Local Public Library
First Published: May 2013
First Lines: "Today the library is hot, humid and smelly. It was like working inside a giant pair of glass underpants without any leg holes to escape through."

Book Description from GoodReads:  An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette's found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

Josh Hanagarne couldn't be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn't officially be diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6'7" when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette's tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to "throttle" his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City's public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette's.

The World's Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

My Review:  When I first noticed this e-audiobook in the catalogue at the library where I work I was, at first, skeptical.  I think many people would be if I were to describe it in the following way.  It's a book about a 6' 7" Mormon librarian who goes to weight-lifting to deal with his severe ticks from Tourette's all the while questioning his faith as well as dealing with his family.  Ya, not typically the type of book I read/listen to and yet I was intrigued.

If I'm being honest, the fact that Josh works in a library was what pushed me to get this book.  But it's the heart, his humour, his conversational style of story telling and his apt descriptions of life working on the front lines in a public library - the challenges, the joys and the rewards -- that kept me listening.  Throughout the book, no matter what topic he was discussing, you always got a sense of who Hanagarne is and I loved that.

This was a very down-to-earth, unique, funny and heart-warming book where the reader truly gets to know Hanagarne.  He has definitely struggled in his life to overcome so much but uses his humour and family (who he unabashedly loves) to get through it.  He's a very relatable kind of guy.

I never would have thought that I'd enjoy a book that included Tourette's, weight lifting and Mormonism.  But I did.  Along the way I also learned a thing or two about Tourette's, Mormonism and weight lifting.  But it was the addition of his quirky, humourous tales about unique library situations and how he dealt with his questions regarding his Mormon faith and dealing with his Tourette's that made it impossible for me to not enjoy this book.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bread Machine Crescent Rolls

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast

1/4 cup butter, softened
garlic powder
Parmesan cheese (optional)
dry parsley flakes

Place water and milk into a small saucepan over medium-low heat and heat until temperature reaches 110F/45C.  Remove from stove and pour into your bread machine pan.

To the water/milk mixture add the egg, 1/3 cup of butter, sugar, salt and flour.  Ensure that all of the liquid is covered by the flour mixture.  Add yeast on top of the flour mixture and then carefully place pan into your bread machine.  You don't want your yeast to get wet. Select Dough setting.

When the cycle finishes (usually takes approximately 2 hours) remove dough from the pan and divide it in half.  Place one ball onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 12-inch circle.  Spread half of the butter onto the circle and sprinkle with garlic powder (Parmesan cheese, if using) and dried parsley (or only butter if you want something more simple).  I opted for one simple (see below) and one with garlic and parsley.  I'll use Parmesan cheese next time.

Using a pizza cutter (or knife) cut the circle into 8 wedges. 

Roll each wedge, starting at the thick end, and then place it on an ungreased baking sheet.  Repeat for the remaining wedges.

For the remaining ball of dough, repeat these directions and place these rolls onto a second ungreased baking sheet.  Cover each pan with a tea towel and place in a warm place for about 1 hour.  

Preheat oven to 400F.  Bake crescent rolls for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  These were the perfect side dish for my Creamy Cauliflower and Cheese Soup (which is Missy Moo's favourite meal)! 

Source: Inspired by - Sweet Dinner Rolls 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Tucci Table

Authors: Stanley Tucci and Felicity Blunt
Genre: Cookbook
Type: ARC e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
First Published: October 28, 2014
First Lines: "Food and family are nearly inseparable in the Tucci household."

Book Description from GoodReads:  Featuring family-friendly recipes and stunning photography, an all-new cookbook from New York Times bestselling author, beloved actor, and respected foodie Stanley Tucci.

Stanley Tucci's association with wonderful foods began for fans with the movie Big Night and resonated in his role as Julia Child's husband in Julie and Julia. But well before these films, he was enjoying innovative homemade Italian meals throughout his childhood, when family and food were nearly inseparable and cooking was always a familial venture.

Now, in a completely new, family-focused cookbook, Tucci captivates food lovers' imaginations with recipes from his traditional Italian roots as well as those of his British wife, Felicity Blunt, tied together with a modern American ribbon. The time-tested recipes include pasta alla bottarga, mushroom-stuffed trout, pork chops with onions and mustard sauce, barbeque chicken wings, and much, much more! Nothing will make you happier to spend time with family than the aroma of a hearty Italian dish sizzling on the stovetop.

Featuring 100 luscious new full-color photographs, The Tucci Table captures the true joys of family cooking. Buon apetito!

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  I have been a fan of Stanley Tucci's acting for quite awhile.  Who didn't love him in Easy A (um, no one!), The Hunger Games series and Julie and Julia to name only a few?  I will admit to having a bit of a crush on him as an actor but now to learn that he was a self-proclaimed foodie too?!  That was the sprinkling of fresh Parmesan on the proverbial ravioli for me!

Now, I've read my fair share of cookbooks and they each have their own feel to them.  The feeling that I got from this book was heart.  It has a whole lot of heart because Tucci incorporates his personality into each chapter as he shares family anecdotes, provides tips, helps the home cook outfit their own kitchens and brings the reader into his family kitchen.  It shows that food and family are inextricably linked in the Tucci home where their family dinner table is one of the foundations of family life.  With the casual feel to the writing I could easily imagine him reading them to me in his signature voice.  

From the beginning of the book you can tell that he and his wife Felicity adore food and feeding people.  It's a wonderful combination of Italian and English family favourites (with a touch of North American flair).  There are a vast array of dishes to choose from including appetizers, soups (the Tuscan Tomato Soup!), sandwiches (Grilled Cheese with Pesto and Prosciutto!), main dishes including fish, pasta and even some British fare from Felicity's upbringing in the UK like Beef Wellington and Shepherd's Pie.  While there are a few dessert recipes thrown in for good measure the Tucci/Blunt family aren't dessert lovers so there isn't a plethora to choose from in that category which is fine by me. 

The overall feel of the book isn't intimidating or snooty but very encouraging and doable.  The recipes may challenge a new cook with some ingredients that aren't standard North American fare as well as some instructions that assume a basic level of culinary understanding but for the intermediate cook this would be a great book to add to the home collection.  

'When I think of the moments that have brought me the most pleasure, the most joy, they are almost always framed within the context of food and the table."

Stanley's way of writing encourages the home cook to jump in and give his recipes a try.  The inclusion of short family stories and even some pictures of his family in the kitchen helped to give this cookbook a very homey feel to it which I really enjoyed.  He comes off as a 'normal kinda guy' who adores food and feeding those he loves.  Add into this the beautiful pictures of many of the recipes and this cookbook is a keeper and would make a great gift for a home cook. 

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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